Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA
Welcome to our third and final day of our inaugural coverage of Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain! After looking at the major new additions for 2016 and the returning mazes, we'll be reviewing the scare zones and some of the Fright Fest entertainment. Both offer some great fun for guests, depending on what they're looking for! Lets dive right in.
Because Fright Fest is not a separately ticket event that closes down daytime operations, there isn't really an opening ceremony at the front of the park. Instead, the signal of Fright Fest's arrival comes with "The Surge," the entrance of park scare zone monsters through the gates near the SCREAM roller coaster. With dramatic flair, a horde of monsters trudges out from the regions beyond (i.e. backstage) and begins a reign of terror from rapidly fleeing and gleeful fans. It's a cool little feature that guests have come to look forward to, and it's a nice way of kicking off each Fright Fest night!
Jumping to the front of the park, we have the "first" scare zone guests encounter and the last one they see before they leave at night. Demon's Door is Six Flags Magic Mountain's recreation of hell. And I know, some of you are already joking that this basically means the regular park, but as I've mentioned, Magic Mountain and the Fright Fest event have made some great strides in recent years, so "hell" no longer serves as a proper euphemism for the Six Flags experience. Here, however, hell takes the form of demonic creatures, hulking monuments, and lots and lots of fire. Hooray flamethrowers in the Six Flags Plaza fountain!
Up at the top of Samurai Summit lies Exile Hill, home to the Willoughby's and a collection of undead that have risen to inflect sinister horror on unsuspecting souls. This is the home of several particularly popular and exceptionally committed, cuttingly creepy, and incredible looking monsters--headlined by Innocence Willoughby, who slowly creeps upon guests with cold, calculated motion. This scare zone just feels chilling and haunted, and the combination of talent and eerie lighting and theming makes this one of my favorite scare zones at Fright Fest.
Nightmares - A Twisted Fantasy
My other favorite scare zone is located over by Rapids Camp Crossing. Nightmares - A Twisted Fantasy features perverse reimaginations of popular fairy tales, with bright, vibrant colors lit by blacklight and creating a crazy, seemingly drug-induced fever dream of a scare zone. As usual, the characters here have incredible aesthetics demonstrating Magic Mountain's superior make-up team. The actors themselves are a lot of fun, interacting in character and really being quite entertaining. Some even seem to have their own little followings, which is pretty impressive.
This extention of the Aftermath 2 maze wasn't much special, and I neglected to really take photos. But trust me when I say that the maze is much more impressive than the scare zone. Although that's probably okay, given Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising is practically a scare zone in and of itself. On my visit, I saw a couple instances of monsters scaring. But the bigger issue is that this scare zone doesn't really span across much area. Plus, its staffing seems rather frugal. It's a bit of a shame, since the area seems like it has a lot of potential, if only additional investment is made.
The other smaller scare zone occurs through Bugs Bunny World. As you can guess by the name, it's populated by the undead. I can't say much about this scare zone, as it didn't seem to be in operation during the walk-throughs that I made. The theming seems to be a slight effort, but it definitely doesn't compare to the big three discussed earlier, or the next area...
This macabre version of the Screampunk District features a steampunk aesthetic gone wrong, with monsters roaming through a bizarre mechanical world. Visually, this area is quite beautiful, but there's not too much immersion. It's more like props and theming scattered about. But what is there looks and is lit great, and perhaps further refinements in the future will make this scare zone really pop.
Finally, for those looking for less intimidating fare, there's the nighttime stage spectacular known as Voodoo Nights. The easiest way to describe this is to call it the Magic Mountain version of Mad T Party (or ElecTRONica)--there's a live band that plays half hour sets of pop and rock cover songs, and then the entertainment switches to something dance related. Of course, some of the band members may have actually come from Mad T, so I suppose there's a certain fitting feel to this. Though monsters may try to scare inattentive guests, overall, Voodoo Nights is a safe zone geared more for music and dance entertainment as opposed to anything terrifying.
There you have it--a recap of this year's Fright Fest! As you can see, visually, the event is no longer the Halloween runt that everyone else can make fun of. By all reports, the quality has really ascended over the past few years, and my experience left me impressed in the same manner than I enjoy heavy hitters like Knott's Scary Farm, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, and Dark Harbor. Magic Mountain now has a line-up of mazes and scare zones that really hold their own against the big dogs.
The only concern about Fright Fest's continued improvement is speed. Unlike Knott's, which usually introduces three new mazes each year, or Universal, which almost always comes up with completely new themed mazes each year, Six Flags hangs onto their mazes for a while. The best expectation for maze turnover is really about one new maze a year, which means returning guests may not find as much revisit value if most of the offerings won't be new.
But that's sort of nitpicking. The strengths are clear. With make-up, Six Flags Magic Mountain's Fright Fest is unparalleled, thanks to Scott Ramp and his amazing Scream Team. And with talent energy, Magic Mountain similarly leads the pack, since the monsters provide entertainment even when they're not actually scary.
So if you haven't made you way up north, but you have some free time, I do recommend a visit to Fright Fest. The wristband to experience mazes isn't much of an upcharge, and the Express Line pass is a much better deal than at Knott's or Universal. Indeed, if Fright Fest is any indication, things are looking up for Magic Mountain. And that's devilishly great!
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